Strange days show old ways are over
Early looks at O-line, Michael Pierce as practices ramp up
It’s apparent that after a rash of devastating injuries that contributed to the Ravens losing their final six games last season that they have reshaped their practice and conditioning programs.
It’s a near complete departure from the team’s first training camp in 1996, when then-coach Ted Marchibroda started hitting on opening day and had two-a-day practices.
Coach John Harbaugh’s camps had some similar rugged characteristics, but those days are gone after top players like running backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards, cornerback Marcus Peters and Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley were either lost for an entire season or most of it because of injuries.
So, the Ravens have this ramp-up style going into 2022 and will be building slowly before eventually starting full contact on Monday.
It’s strange, but safer.
Stanley was on the field but wasn’t in pads. If he can return fully healthy from a major ankle injury he suffered almost two years ago that required another surgery after playing in one game last season, he’ll improve the line tremendously.
If not, the Ravens will probably play Morgan Moses at right tackle and Ja’Wuan James on the left side. Neither were starters in Baltimore last season.
Right now, it appears rookie Tyler Linderbaum will start at center with Kevin Zeitler at right guard and Ben Powers on the left side. Meanwhile, second-year guard Ben Cleveland, who was expected to challenge Powers for a starting position, didn’t practice after being placed on the nonfootball injury list.
The Ravens made a big deal out of Cleveland last season when they drafted him in the third round, but so far he has been stiff and can’t make blocks into the second level.
He needs to get on the field as soon as possible.
The best catch of the day belonged to receiver Devin Duvernay, who made a sliding catch turning backwards on a 20- to 30-yard back shoulder throw from quarterback Lamar Jackson.
Cornerback Kevon Seymour had tight coverage, but it was a perfect play all the way around from Seymour to Jackson to Duvernay.
Harbaugh said that he hasn’t heard of any progress on negotiations with former Michigan outside linebacker David Ojabo, the Ravens’ second-round selection in April’s draft. As of Wednesday, he became the last of 259 picks to remain unsigned.
Ojabo’s absence is somewhat strange
considering that draft positions are structured salary-wise, and the negotiations fall in line with whom was selected before and after Ojabo, who was the 45th overall pick.
This basically seems like an agent advising Ojabo for very little gain, but it might make an impression on next year’s draft class.
Fortunately for the Ravens, the 6-foot-4, 255-pound linebacker is recovering from an Achilles tendon injury and won’t be ready until late in the season anyway. He has great potential and an assortment of moves.
If Ojabo hadn’t suffered the injury, he might have been a first-round pick, but those types of breaks happen in life. Now he just has to live with it, accept his slotted deal and move on.
Humphrey stands out
Cornerback Marlon Humphrey was impressive in several offseason minicamps, but he was even better on the opening day of training camp.
Humphrey, about to enter his sixth season, broke up several passes and displayed outstanding break on the ball and acceleration.
He might be on a mission after a subpar 2021 season.
Michael Pierce was starting at nose tackle but clearly isn’t in top physical shape. He needs to shed about 10 to 15 pounds to get ready for the regular-season opener Sept. 11 against the New York Jets.
Pierce still has some explosion and strength, but he couldn’t play consistently at this moment. The Ravens did get to see an example of his brute strength when he pushed Linderbaum to the ground like a little kid during a pass-rushing drill.
If Pierce slims down, the Ravens should have a decent defensive line with tackle Justin Madubuike and end Calais Campbell.
Rookie right offensive tackle Daniel Faalele, a fourth-round pick from Minnesota, struggled with conditioning during the offseason but moved better Wednesday.
Faalele is a project but has potential simply because of his size at 6-8 and 380 pounds.*